Benzene, Methanol, Nicotine, Mercury and Ammonia are not the only toxic substances that can be found in a cigarette. They are also the five members of Tabac Force, a team of heroes who fight against the bad guys by suffocating them with their poisonous powers. In their tight suits, Gilles Lellouche, Anaïs Demoustier, Jean-Pascal Zadi, Oulaya Amamra and Vincent Lacoste are worthy characters of sentai, those Japanese stories in which a group of heroes in a broken suit of the mutant invader with a dubious disguise.
Precisely, the film opens with a confrontation between the Tabac Force and a not very monstrous monster that they will reduce to bloody mush all together like real friends. As usual, the director of Rubber feels like a fish in water when sailing on the codes of cinema bis. His look, both mocking and tender, on the genre of sentai stands out as a perfect extension to the offbeat tone of his career. Same desert and sunny landscapes, same controlled uneasiness, same pleasure to see famous actors playing dumb. We are at the Dupieux who winsand which signs in these first minutes of fight one of the most successful scenes of film, so much it translates faithfully the ridiculousness of the programs whose television of the Nineties watered its young public.
No cigarette break after the massacre
We nevertheless regret that the parody ends here, more or less, because the film quickly abandons its concept to switch to the plot with drawers, and uses in particular the famous campfire card around which the characters will tell stories. Each of the stories is equivalent to a small film within a film, with a screenplay and casting in its own right.
If the formula is quite pleasant at first, it ends up giving printing a free fill which distracts the viewer from the original story without ever seducing him as much. Too bad, because these short films represent so many good ideas that deserved to be the subject of independent works, short or long. Here, shoehorned into the main story, they serve as jam spread too much on the toast of a film that is scattering.
“I have a joke to tell, it will keep you busy for 10 minutes”
Nevertheless, even if there is food and drink in Smoking makes you coughimpossible to miss the stroke of genius of the film, which is none other than Alain Chabat. Well, no, not quite Alain Chabat, that would be too easy. It’s rather Chef Didier, the disgusting rat puppet who serves as the boss of our poor rangers and to whom Chabat lends his talents as a voice actor. Only non-human character, he embodies so well what the spirit of Dupieux can call funniest that he is ultimately the film’s most successful character.
Close cousin (probably inbred) of Mr. Oizo of the director’s clips, Chef Didier is a not-at-all-cute felt rat, from whose mouth a green, viscous liquid is constantly dripping. A detail which does not prevent him from giving his instructions to the Tabac Force with the seriousness of a Charlie who addresses his funny ladies, and does not prevent him from being a real heartthrob either (because many women I have a crush on drooling rats, it’s well known, it’s the principle of heterosexuality). To give life to the rodent, Chabat employs his disarming sobriety whose contrast with the appearance of the puppet is hilarious, which gives a boost to the film every time it comes on the scene.
We want a duet with Splinter
CLOPES AND CLOPINETTES
And boost shots, the film needs it. Because like other films by the director, after a flying start and good ideas scattered right and left, Smoking makes you cough abandons any real ambition of narrative and struggles to connect the wagons. Quickly, the soufflé falls: to deprive the spectator of the history which it was following (and which made it laugh well) to offer tasty but flown over segments to him, it is extremely frustrating. The nonchalance of the writing betrays a refusal to get tired of concluding the story and, paradoxically, the desire to make room in the sun for secondary ideas, even if it means throwing everything into the blender and delivering a lazy film.
Duplicitous when you talk to him about finishing his script
This kind of formula works well in an economy that was that of the Dupieux of Rubber and Bad Cops, because broke genre movie audiences have a tolerant, if not loving, eye for production issues that show up on screen and in the script. But difficult for the current Dupieux to plead the lack of resources. Its reputation continues to grow and half of the stars of French cinema prance at the top of its posters – among the supporting roles here: Adèle Exarchopoulos, David Marsais, Grégoire Ludig, Dora Tillier, Benoît Poelvoorde…
Dupieux knows how to win over the confidence of actors who make all the spice of his films, and there too, he does not hesitate to bet on quantity. But trying to seduce by the carelessness of films without means, when you don’t lack it, it works if you do pastiche like in the first sequence. Otherwise, it sounds a bit like a scam.
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